Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Another Summer Ended

Ok -- summer isn't exactly over yet, but HAWS summer session of Kids 'N Critters Day Camp has ended. Last week I was happy to get some respite from kids for a few weeks so I could start planning for the school year before first semester starts. This week it feels unnaturally quiet in the building, and to be honest working at the computer is becoming tedious. I can't wait until school starts up again so I can work with kids.

This summer HAWS had 430 kids between the ages of 6 and 14 years visit HAWS. It was a summer of a lot of firsts for us.

It was the first time we had 2 rooms in which to run camp -- and so it was also the first time we ran 2 different camps at the same time. It was the first time we had 40 (some sessions a few more!) kids attending camp at the same time. It was the first time we ran two brand new specialty camps; Camp Gone to the Dogs and Shutterbug Camp.

The best response on the survey we sent out to the parents came from one of the kids. This respose said: "All of the animals we interacted with were friendly. None of them were mean that we came across. It taught me stuff that I wouldnt have known.Some day I would like to become a vet. So this camp was very fun and helpful to me."

Based on that I'd say camp was a success.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finding Horse Sense

One of the specialty camps HAWS holds every summer is a horseback riding field trip camp. The field trip of the week is an chance to learn about an animal we don't have at HAWS, and to get to do something many kids don't have an opportunity to experience.

Our first few years we went on trail rides -- but since HAWS really wants the kids to learn something about the animals they interact with, I wasn't entirely satisfied with the fact that we were just getting a ride without taking away knowledge.

A few years ago we were lucky enough to learn about Knollwood Farm in Hartland. Their Riding School Director, Nancy Turner, puts together a wonderful experience for HAWS campers. We spend an afternoon at Knollwood and the kids get a tour of the facility, learn about appropriate behavior around horses, learn how to groom and put on tack, and get a riding lesson.

Some of the things we've learned at Knollwood are: Always keep your hand on the horse when you're walking around them so that they know where you are. Taking care of a horse is a lot of hard work. Riding horses involves muscles you never knew you had -- and they will hurt the next day.

One of the best lessons wasn't officially part of the program. Knollwood has a 34 year old horse living there -- with a life expectancy of 25-30 years, that is a very old horse. I unfortunately don't remember the name of the horse, but I'm impressed with the compassion a business can have for an animal that served for so many years. This geriatric, blind horse is kept comfortable and is obviously loved by employees and students of Knollwood alike. I hope HAWS camper's learned something about compassion through this experience.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shutterbug Camp

A few years ago I noticed that we had a lot of kids coming to camp with cameras - snapping away as though they were on an African safari seeing animals in their natural habitat for the first time.

I think it's human nature to want to have something to remember what we've experienced, and photography is a perfect medium for that. We humans rely quite a bit on our sight over our other senses - and photographs are visual documentation of our lives.

When I was looking for new things to do with camp I thought that having a camp combining animals and photography might be a good idea. In a past life I was a professional photographer, and so I have a unique skill to be able to pass on as a Humane Educator.

The first day of camp I showed a photography PowerPoint and talked about lighting, perspective, and composition with examples to show the kids. I talked about "rules" that photographers rely on -- such as the "rule of thirds", and then told the kids that rules are made to be broken. I encouraged them to try new things -- turn the flash off, use the flash outside, move around, take photos from all different angles. With digital photography we have an advantage that you can take as many photos as you want at no additional cost, and you can see what you've taken instantaneously.

The kids did an amazing job -- as you can see by the photos on this page.

Part of the camp was making a photo album through WinkFlash which will be mailed to them when the order is delivered. These types of books are readily available at any number of companies -- the photos are printed right onto paper and bound in a book. It will be a nice reminder of their time spent at HAWS Kids 'N Critters Day camp.

These are pages from several of the books the kids put together. They were able to choose different templates for each page, and even write captions to accompany the photographs.

During the week of Shutterbug Camp Dr. Patricia McConnell was kind enough to bring her dogs Will and Hope for a visit.

She talked about dog training, had the kids train Hope to do a few tricks, and allowed them to take photos of the dogs. Willie and Hope were movie stars for a day while the HAWS paparrazi snapped away.

A field trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo gave the kids plenty of photo-ops.

I also brought in some studio lighting and a backdrop so that the kids could get a little experience using professional lighting.

But overall the kids just did their own thing whenever we had animals out -- which was most of the day. And they really developed some phenomenal shutterbug skills!